Tag Archives: Streaming on Netflix

Perfect Bid: The Contestant Who Knew Too Much

Oh man, being sick was great when I was a kid. So great. You got to spend the day at Nanny’s house. Nanny had rich people’s margarine, which tasted 60% like butter and only 40% like chemicals. She was generous with it, which made her baloney sandwiches taste extra good. Of course, the thick-cut baloney didn’t hurt either. Heaven! You mostly got to lounge on the couch, being served, and watching TV. Nanny was devoted to her “stories” (her special nickname for soap operas) but before they started, there was The Price Is Right.

Perfect Bid is about a man who was not content to simply enjoy a game show from his grandmother’s couch on the occasional sick day. Ted watches A LOT. And he starts to MV5BYWUwYzdlOTQtY2YxNS00MWI1LTg5ZTgtN2YyMzNmYmFhZDA2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDM1MjU4MA@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,666,1000_AL_notice patterns. So he makes elaborate spreadsheets, enumerating prizes, and prices. And now there’s only one thing left to do: obsessively attend tapings until he gets picked. Ted is NOT local, so he spends years taking trips down to L.A. and by the end, people won’t even come with him anymore. It takes 24 shows before he finally gets picked, and up he goes to make his bids, and if memory serves, he’ll get them right. Down to the last dollar. But even the best memory can’t account for the component of the show that’s just plain luck, so Teddy boy doesn’t make it up to the Showcase Showdown. And wouldn’t you know it: The Price Is Right has a pesky rule that says once you’ve been chosen once, you don’t get chosen again.

So what now?

Oh you know I love me some documentaries about life’s weirdos. And the world is so full of weirdos they’re literally falling off. Ted is kind of a weirdo. And the director, C.J. Wallis, plays that to the max, practically casting him as some sort of not-so-evil mastermind.

Meanwhile, there’s a secondary kind of wonderfulness woven through the documentary like a ribbon, and his name is Bob Barker. It some ways, Perfect Bid is a tribute to Barker’s 35 year history with the show, always a perfect gentleman and a flawless host. There may be such a thing as a too-perfect contestant, but as a host, Bob’s perfection knew no bounds.

 

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Wine Country

Six women, all former pizza waitresses, super longtime friends, head to wine country to celebrate a birthday: Rebecca is turning 50.

Rebecca (Rachel Dratch) is not so into this 50 thing. She’s a therapist who’s got great “feedback” for everyone else but has neglected the problems in her marriage.

Catherine (Ana Gasteyer) is a successful workaholic who’s having trouble disconnecting…and connecting, for that matter.

Naomi (Maya Rudolph) is a stressed-out mom of 4 who needs this time away so badly she’s bringing a weird intensity to the trip.

Val (Paula Pell) has a brand new set of knees and is hoping to find a new girlfriend to match.

Jenny (Emily Spivey) rarely leaves her house and has a super tepid reaction to literally everything.

Abby (Amy Poehler) has over-scheduled them all to within an inch of their lives. They’re having fun! (it’s on the itinerary in 20 minute increments).

These women are clearly tremendous friends, but their friendship is also so storied and MV5BMTJiMDEyYmMtNzVlOS00NTRhLTllNjEtNjdmZGRjYTQwODI2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_complicated. And a tarot reading only brings up their internal conflicts – then they add all the wine! Oooh, shit’s about to become unglued.

Amy Poehler directs for the first time, and assembles her own Avengers (mostly SNL veterans) and she brings such an amazing energy to the thing. Instead of non-stop laughs, Poehler trusts that we’re in the right company, and enjoying our time with the ladies will be enough. She’s right. It’s like being among your own friends. They randomly burst into pieces of song. They openly roll eyes at over-eager sommeliers. And they’re mostly just supportive of each other, sometimes in abrasive ways that only comes with true intimacy, but it’s nice that it’s so assured. It feels right.

I’ve been to Napa for a birthday too, with my 2 favourite assholes, Matt and Sean. And it seems like we did a lot of the same things: wine tunnels and short buses and organic wineries. These ladies probably went  home with the exact same high-end olive oil as souvenirs. So there’s room in this script for you to project your own shit, which I always think is nice.

 

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile

It’s hard out there for a single woman. And there is perhaps nothing more illustrative of that fact than the woman who stayed with Ted Bundy, infamous serial killer.

Liz (Lily Collins) is the dumb bitch and Ted (Zac Efron) is the charming son of a gun who gets away with it.

Liz wants to believe him. Or she wants to want to believe him. Sure it’s increasingly hard when the convictions start rolling in and other states start throwing in their charges as well. The country is littered with the bodies of dead young women. It’s getting tricky to be in love with Ted Bundy. But no matter how much evidence piles up against him, no MV5BMTk5NzEyNTY0M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA4MTU4NjM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,893_AL_matter how much sense it makes to her rational self, the heart is a stubborn muscle, and it often betrays common sense. There’s an early scene wherein Liz and Ted go dog shopping at a local shelter. She walks by some real cuties, including the unicorn of dog shelters, a real life golden retriever puppy, but she sets her eyes on a dog even I thought looked suspicious. “It’s going to tear her throat out,” I said, half joking. And then it turned aggressive a split second later. Liz is as good at choosing dogs as she is at choosing men.

Liz isn’t the only one who doesn’t take him seriously enough. The cops often have him behind bars only to let him slip away. One mustache later and he’s picking up women again. And, you know, brutally murdering them. But the movie completely glosses over those parts. Rather it focuses on Bundy’s manipulation of the women in his life, of the truth and what it means, of the judicial system itself, of the media and its perception of him. Bundy is the ring master of a certified media circus, and a continued magnet for a certain brand of chick who insist they find him “dreamy.”

Strangely, the film seems more in contempt of the women who love and help and care for him than it is of the man convicted of so many vile and wicked crimes. It’s an odd take I’m not sure the world needed it. The only thing that saves this movie from itself is Zac Efron’s performance, and I bet you never thought you’d hear anyone say that in your life. As Bundy, Efron is a man of misplaced convictions, a man who believes his own lies – and his own hype. He’s a shark, but he’s also a master of charm and good manners when he’s not ripping into your flesh. And while it’s a compelling performance, it’s also part of the problem. The movie with the long, annoying title shows all the facets of Bundy’s personality that a woman might fall for, and very little of the terrible violence he perpetrated on dozens of innocent victims.

Paper Year

Franny (Eve Hewson) and Dan (Avan Jogia) are young and broke but they’re terribly in love so they get married at city hall, keeping mum until after the fact.

The first year of marriage is supposed to be the easiest. You’re literally still in the honeymoon period. You’re still writing thank you cards for all the wonderful gifts you received at the wedding. You’re blind with bliss and you’re killing it so hard at this marriage thing that you practically think you invented it. But it’s also a time of transition and adjustment. Now that you’re officially bound to another human being, you have to make real compromise.

Franny and Dan are in for a bumpy ride. He, an out-of-work actor, takes a job house sitting/ dog walking while some other, luckier actor is out of town. She, a writer, finally lands a job writing for a terrible reality TV show. It’s not a glamourous job but she does respect her boss, head writer Noah (Hamish Linklater)….maybe a little too much? Because it certainly causes friction at home, her landing a dream-adjacent job, and him taking a job that forces him to admit that acting is not a thing he gets paid to do. Their paths diverging, they grow apart.

Paper is the traditional anniversary gift for a first anniversary. But I think in this case, it’s also referring to the fragility of that first year. Paper is so easily creased. So easily ripped, in fact. By the third year you’re into leather, which, whoa, is a lot more durable. Also durable: fifth year’s wood, 10th year’s aluminum, and motherfucking 60th anniversary’s diamond. Jeez Louise. Marriage, as an institution, makes less and less sense. And yet most of us are still making the attempt. Lots of us fail in that attempt. Some of us fail multiple times. I mean, can you even imagine being with someone for 60 years? When marriage was invented, it was a social bond, a partnership wherein financial stability and child rearing were emphasized. Today we expect everlasting romance. For 60 years? Yikes.

Franny and Dan are having a heck of a time just making it to year one. I remember my own year one: we bought a house, we got a third dog, and a new car. My nephew was born. My sister got married. Sean changed jobs. We traveled to New York City, and to Vegas where we renewed our vows for the first time. It was a good year. But Sean and I were not young newlyweds – Sean was an old maid in his 30s, in fact. We already had homes and careers and lives. We didn’t need to complete each other. Franny and Dan have a lot more working against them, and let’s be honest: they’re not half as charming as Sean and I. So while it’s understandable that you’d keep coming back here because we’re so damn irresistible, I’m not sure even 89 minutes is worth spending with Franny and Dan. Dan and Franny (do couples always agree on who’s name goes first?). Paper Year is an okay movie, strictly speaking, but it didn’t move me, it didn’t inform me, it didn’t delight me or captivate me. And those are all things I continue to get from my own marriage, on a surprisingly daily basis. And it’s just plain old Sean going about his ordinary life, being a (mostly) wonderful person and (largely) thoughtful husband.

1ST YEAR: Paper
2ND YEAR: Cotton
3RD YEAR: Leather
4TH YEAR: Fruit & Flowers, or Linen & Silk
5TH YEAR: Wood
6TH YEAR: Iron / Candy
7TH YEAR: Wool/ Copper
9TH YEAR: Pottery
10TH YEAR: Tin/ Aluminum
11TH YEAR: Steel
12TH YEAR: Silk
13TH YEAR: Lace
14TH YEAR: Ivory
15TH YEAR: Crystal
20TH YEAR: China
25TH YEAR: Silver
30TH YEAR: Pearl
35TH YEAR: Coral
40TH YEAR: Ruby
45TH YEAR: Sapphire
50TH YEAR: Gold
55TH YEAR: Emerald
60TH YEAR: Diamond

Pure Country Pure Heart

I’m as surprised as you are that this is a real thing. And nearly as surprised that Sean chose it.

Here’s a thing: it takes Sean longer to find a movie on Netflix than to watch a movie on Netflix. He flips through titles so quickly it literally gives me motion sickness to look at the screen, so he’s largely on his own, his bad taste off-leash, running amok through genres he knows damn well he has no business perusing.

Another thing: we are not above watching something in irony. Or even hate-watching something, if we’re in a mood (yes we have collective moods). The thing is, I didn’t know we were in a mood when Sean hit play on this, so yeah, I was taken aback. Was he drawn to the horsies? Or still dazzled by the best movie we’d seen all week: an Instagram video of my 3 year old niece singing Alcohol You Later?

Anyway. Two young sisters who love to sing their own country songs decide to go on a quest to Nashville (less than an afternoon’s drive in a rickety pickup truck, so not exactly an epic adventure, but still) to find out who their father was. I mean, who he was in terms of likes and dislikes and was he more of an autumn or a winter. Their mother doesn’t like to talk about him since he died…in a war? Iraq, maybe? Anyway, he’s a heroic war veteran who threw himself on a grenade to save some other guys in his unit (although not overly effectively, since it left at least one other guy paralyzed) (what, we’re not allowed to joke about stuff like that? Okay, fine. I guess someone’s in a mood after all).

Long, uninteresting story short: their dad liked to sing country too! In fact, he used to record and tour with this semi-famous country singer who they befriend. Behind their mother’s back of course, because mom likes the semi-famous country singer even less than she likes talking about her dead hero husband.

It weren’t no good. There’s lots of singing and lots of pie and surprisingly little talk about god. Willie Nelson’s in it, though he’s disavowed it. I know this because I could not for the life of me guess what this movie was called. The only clue was Willie’s presence, but his IMDB denies any knowledge of this film. So does google, for that matter. I asked Sean and he came back with the answer straight away, and I thought: Geez, this guy continues to surprise me. In fact, the only thing that should surprise me is that he’s able to sign in to Netflix from work, which is what he had to do when “country movie Netflix two sisters pies” failed as a search term. God I love this man.

Who Would YOU Take To A Deserted Island?

Four friends have shared a flat in Madrid for 8 freaking years and have managed not to go insane or kill each other. Now, near the end of the summer, they are celebrating their last day together in the home they’ve shared since they were kids. Life is about to change.

Celeste and Eze are friends who share a passion: Eze’s about to go off to London on a scholarship to study film while Celeste grapples with the fact that nothing is really happening with her life; she’s an actress considering working fast food to get by.

Marta and Marcos seem more solid, relationship-wise if not sex-wise. Marcos is off to med school, and Marta’s planning on following him, to teach ballet rather than dance herself.

Their aim for the night is to get drunk and act out their old tradition of singing loudly from their rooftop.

This is a Spanish movie, and Netflix offers a dubbed version, which has all the pitfalls of a dubbed version. The dialogue often feels a bit stilted and forced. Maybe that’s why the characters never felt accessible to me. I had trouble connecting to any of them.

Anyway, the movie is fully half way over before it gets to the point, ie, the title. Drunk, the 4 friends play a dicey game of Who Would You Take To A Deserted Island? Each of them gets to pick 2 friends, which is just another way of saying NOT choosing one, so the friend who gets left out feels like a piece of shit. Which sounds like a fun party game, no?

Not content to have things just be unbearably tense, they up the ante by making the game even funner. Now you can only choose one friend to take to the deserted island.

I think the premise is kind of interesting but the characters were just too annoying for anything to matter. Secrets are spilled, resentments become painfully clear, sure. Sure. But I just didn’t give a shit. I would 110% rather die alone on a deserted island than spend 10 minutes in the company of any of these people.

 

 

Homecoming: A Film By Beyonce

Another sleepless night, Sean snoring beside me. Suddenly, around 5:30am, all the usual racing thoughts preventing sleep start to congeal into just the once: today is Beyonce day.

Beyonce has been Queen for a long damn time. She’s more Queen than the Queen of England, because that lady is a figure head and Beyonce is for real. Beyonce is not just a pop star, she is a cultural icon, more than her voice, more than her marriage, more than MV5BNWYwMTExOTAtNjVmYi00MWVjLTgzZWUtZTI0OTE3YTgwMjM3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjg2NjQwMDQ@._V1_her style and her fame and her talent. She was a successful, powerful black woman, her success and power being so seemingly limitless that they transcended gender and race. And at the height of that power, Beyonce claimed both her blackness and her womanhood in a way that was political, artistic, and impossible to ignore. Now we need a word that is somehow more than Queen, and maybe the only name worthy is Beyonce itself.

Homecoming is a documentary detailing Beyonce’s brilliant performance at last year’s (2018) Coachella. But just as that show was more than a concert, the documentary ends up being much more than a recording. It’s a testament. This is Beyonce clearly comfortable in her strength, and the evidence is written in her lyrics, in her stage presence, and all over the damn screen. We witness Beyonce the businesswoman, Beyonce the workhorse, Beyonce the mother and wife, the artist and creator.

After a 22 year career, Beyonce has a whole lotta laurels upon which to rest her world-famous booty. Her name alone is enough to have Coachella gagging. Which is to say: she does not have to work this hard. She’s working like she’s NOT the most famous woman in the world. But Beyonce wasn’t going to just bring her music to the festival – she brought her culture, and she gave it to the people. She worked for 8 months to deliver a powerhouse 2 hour performance.

Fan or not, it’s completely impossibly to tear your eyes away from this woman so fully owning her power. A woman who – dare I say it? – is feeling herself, and not apologizing for it. Not one bit.